How Breathing Determines the Quality of Sleep

Sleep and breathing are two free mental recovery tools. This seems to be simple enough, but we often forget about the basics. For example, breathing determines the value of our heart rate while regulating oxygen uptake and stress. Breathing also majorly affects the quality of our sleep.

Key takeaways:
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    Those who breathe through the mouth at night are more likely to snore and develop sleep apnea.
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    By controlling your breathing, you can lower your heart rate and control other physiological processes in your body.
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    Some types of yoga promote better blood circulation, which is a great way to cool down before going to sleep.

There are many breathing methods, tactics, and schools of thought on breathing and sleep. A Ukrainian doctor, Konstantin Buteyko, created the Buteyko breathing technique (BBT) in the 1950s. He treated asthma patients and worked extensively with children and athletes. These days, his methodology is carried on by Patrick McKeown, who has written many books about Buteyko breathing technique and is preparing Buteyko breathing instructors around the world.

Buteyko highlights two key aspects of breathing:

a) You must breathe through the nose as breathing through the mouth is not effective. For example, those who breathe through the mouth at night are more likely to snore and develop sleep apnea.

b) It is necessary to slow down the pace of inhalation and exhalation. This is done by taking breaks between inhalations. On average, a person inhales and exhales 12 to 15 times a minute. If someone has asthma, this will happen more than 20 times a minute. But it’s best to slow this down to 6 to 8 times a minute.

What is your BOLT test score?

The BOLT (blood oxygen level test) or Control pause test is used to show your breathing ability and risk of snoring, apnea, and experiencing headaches. This test is done by inhaling through your nose, then exhaling and pinching your nose. Count the seconds until you begin to feel unpleasant, such as feeling uncomfortable but not completely out of breath. This is not a test of will, but you need to note when you first feel uncomfortable enough that you want to inhale.

  • If your score is up to 20 seconds, you need to work hard since you are likely to have challenges with your breathing apparatus.
  • If you score between 20 and 30 seconds, your results are average but you can improve further!
  • If your score is over 40 seconds, voila! You did very well and your respiratory apparatus works great.

The good news is that control pause time can be increased during training such as specific breathing slowdown exercises and breathing arrest while walking. With each additional 5 seconds of progress, you will feel better with improved sleep quality and athletic performance.

Why is it important to breathe through your nose?

By controlling your breathing, you can lower your heart rate and control other physiological processes in your body. So being able to breathe properly is very important.

If we are unable to breathe through our nose at night, we have an increased chance of sleep apnea, which is already a serious problem for sleep quality. With sleep apnea, the brain can wake up 10 to 15 times each hour due to a lack of oxygen. As a result, the body does not rest at all during the night.

You can find out if you have a risk of apnea by taking the Stop Bang test. If you live alone and you don’t know if you’re snoring, there’s also a way to check the mobile app Do I Snore Or Grind?.

During the day, try to breathe through your nose as much as possible. Do at least 10 minutes of breathing exercises before going to bed in the evening. No matter what breathing technique you use, the most important practice is to breathe through your nose and slow down your breathing.

If you snore at night, try to put a patch on your lips. Don’t be afraid. Your breathing will simply switch to nose breathing and, in the morning, you will feel much more rested.

Free mobile apps are great for breath control, too, as they allow you to do a variety of breathing exercises. You can try a few of them today. For example, inhale through one nostril and exhale through your other nostril. Or try the 4-4-4-4 technique: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. Do a series of 10 and your pulse is likely to slow down and lead to relaxation.

How do yoga practitioners breathe?

By having less stress in the evening, this leads to better sleep. Many studies have shown that practicing yoga in the evening is a great way to exercise, which increases adenosine (sleep pressure) levels, promotes fatigue, and is great for fighting stress.Also, some types of yoga promote better blood circulation, which is a great way to cool down. In order to enter the deep sleep stage, the body needs to cool down by several degrees, so activating blood circulation in the evening is beneficial.

The role of breathing during yoga is very important, so here are some recommendations you can try this evening before going to bed to help relax you. These breathing exercises can be performed before and after your yoga or stretching practice.

It is recommended to lie down in bed first to activate the right part of the nose, which is responsible for digestion and other unfinished work before bedtime. After 5 to 10 minutes, change sides. This activates the left side of the nose, which is responsible for our relaxation, emotional balance, and helping us fall asleep faster (according to Science of Breath, Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine, MD, Alan Hymes, MD).

A breathing exercise called "Nadi Shodhanam“ (alternate nostril breathing or pranayama) is one of the most basic breathing exercises that is great for the end of the day. This breathing exercise helps you relax and engage in a meditative state to rest both mentally and emotionally. There are many variations of this breathing for different situations. At the beginning of the breathing exercise, we can only use the index finger to close the nostrils. With practice, we can use another variation of fingers. It’s not recommended to do this breathing exercise if you have difficulty breathing with one nostril.

One way to perform this breathing exercise is just before bed. There are some simple steps to follow:

  1. Sit in the chosen comfortable position. Your eyes may be closed or you may look down and away if you prefer.
  2. Breathe through both nostrils, observe how your body feels, and what happens in your body with each inhalation and exhalation.
  3. Depending on how much time you have or after a few minutes, start "Nadi Shodhanam" breathing by inhaling through both nostrils:
    1. with the index finger you close the left side of the nose and exhale through the right
    2. inhale through the left side and exhale through the right side (repeat 3 times)
    3. inhale through the right and exhale through the left side (repeat 3 times)
    4. after exhalation through the left side, continue breathing through both nostrils